Common Orbital Sander Mistakes
The random orbital sander is one of the first tools professional headlight restoration technicians should own. The design is simple, and right there in the name – the random orbital sander moves, in a random circular pattern, to sand headlight lenses preparing for the final protective coating.
1. Slow it down
Random orbital sanders are designed to be used and moved slowly.
So, what’s the ideal speed? About ten to twelve seconds per linear foot, about an inch per second.
This feels incredibly slow and tedious, but that’s what it takes to let the random oscillations do what they’re designed to do. This is the best way to reduce swirl patterns on the surface, and get a uniformly smooth surface.
2. Don’t press down onto the lens
You do not need to add any pressure to the tool to make it work properly. Don’t push down, even the slightest bit. The weight of the tool and your hand is enough to get the results you want. In fact, pressing down can bog the motor, slowing down the process and harming the surface. Let the sandpaper do the work.
3. Wipe off Dust. Often.
Cut down on the airborne dust by wiping down the lens often. Reduce the layer of dust that sits in between the headlight lens and the sanding disc. This allows the grits to be constantly in contact with the headlight, not the dust that was just removed. That means you can work faster, and get a smooth, clear lens quicker.
4. Do not tilt your orbital sander. Ever.
When you see a spot or a scratch, it’s natural to want to angle that sander a bit and bear down on the problem area to get it gone fast.
Avoid the temptation. Random orbital sanders are designed to do one thing: make a flat plane uniformly smooth.
Instead, use hand sanding in those areas.
5. Use a Variety of Grits
Sandpaper grits are designed to be used as a team. Each progressive sandpaper grit removes the scratch pattern from the last one. This means you can’t just toss on a super fine grit disc and get a finish quality surface without working your way up.
6. Don’t ask too much, or too little, from your sanding discs.
Don’t expect them to do more than they can. Once they’ve stopped cutting and have filled with dust, take them off the sander and replace. The time you spend moving sandpaper around that doesn’t work anymore is much more valuable than what you paid for the disc. You’ll know when they’ve given their all. The results will start to speak for themselves.
Of course, you shouldn’t toss them immediately. They’ll have a second life for sanding tight spaces, curves and rounded surfaces manually.
The random orbital sander is an essential tool; it’ll produce excellent and professional results.